80% of city's sewage dumped in lakes: Report

 Study Says Poor Waste Management Leading To Contamination Of City’s Drinking Water Sources


Hyderabad: The city’s most important water body, the Musi River, has turned in to a sewage line. Almost 80% of Hyderabad’s untreated sewage gets dumped into the city’s lakes so much so that the city’s drinking water (Manjeera) now demonstrates an alarmingly high presence of excreta.

These are some of the startling facts which have come to light in the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)’s 71-city study, Excreta Matters, on how Indian urban centres manage their water and sewage resources. The study was released in the city on Wednesday by the municipal administration and urban development (MAUD) minister M Maheedhar Reddy who incidentally faulted citizens for the high sewage and excreta content in the city’s drinking water.

According to the report, 700-800 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage is dumped in the Musi. This is because the municipalities surrounding Hyderabad, with a population of 0.2 million and spread over an area of over 370 square kilometers (sqkm), have virtually no sewerage network. All the waste is discharged into drains and water bodies that eventually flow into the Musi. Adding to this sewage load is the pharmaceutical hub at Patancheru that releases a huge amount of chemical waste into the city’s water sources.

If the amount of impurities present in Hyderabad’s water is shocking, the plummeting water level in its lakes is even more alarming. According to the CSE study, the city is currently staring at a 30% deficit in its official water supply with the crisis only likely to worsen in the future. Most of the 934 tanks (lakes) in and around Hyderabad (as per 1973 records) have disappeared and the geographical area covered by water bodies has reduced to less than 1.5%. The Hyderabad study of the CSE report was compiled in collaboration with SaciWaters (South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies). 

The death of local water bodies has forced the city to fall back on water from Nargarjunasagar dam (100km away), the Krishna (116km away) and even the Godavari, which is at a distance of about 186km from the state capital, the report observes. The demand-supply gap for water has increased the pressure on groundwater in both residential and industrial pockets. 

“But, like in most cities, in Hyderabad, too, there is no respect for groundwater management. There is no realization that the supply is finite and should be recharged for sustainability,” said Nitya Jacob, programme director (water), CSE. Based on the findings of the CSE report, Jacob proposed that authorities allocate Rs 1,076 crore to treat contaminated water with an additional Rs 4,622 crore to fix the problem of water shortage.

Government officials present at the event, however, thought that was unnecessary. They maintained that both the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB) were doing enough to supply ‘safe’ and ‘clean’ water to Hyderabad’s residents. The MAUD minister, instead of finding fault with these departments, squarely blamed Hyderabadis for encroachment of water bodies and rise in water pollution levels. “Residents never bother to complain about encroachments. They just sit back and expect the government to do everything. It is they who are responsible for the dumping of waste in water bodies,” Reddy said.

He accused “people with money power” of illegally drilling borewells and depleting the water-table while even as he gave a clean chit to the government. “I, however, admit that many lakes have disappeared or have been polluted. We are making sincere efforts to address the issue. “We have even taken up the rainwater harvesting project very aggressively and assure that all residential ventures that have paid for this facility over the last one year will have a pit on their premises in a few months,” the minister said.

Times View

Potable drinking water remains a pipe dream in Hyderabad. There have been many studies indicating that the water supplied to city households is ‘C’ grade and cannot be consumed without being treated intensively. That authorities choose to blame citizens for the poor quality of water that flows out of their taps only goes to show their complete lack of concern in addressing this serious matter. It was only three years back that 11 people died in Bholakpur after consuming contaminated water. But there is no hope given the complacency of the authorities who are yet to learn their lesson.